I came to the UK from Bermuda in 1975. I was only supposed to be staying in the UK for a few months and then fly to America to start my career in the restaurant business, but a friend of a friend was opening a restaurant in London – Montpeliano - so I decided to get involved with that. It was the first London restaurant I ever opened. The rest is history really.
Nothing beats the feeling you get when you find the perfect site, the perfect team and then design and open a restaurant. A lot of people at my age have a traditional hobby like sailing or golf – this will always be my hobby.
The key to overcoming obstacles is patience. The last major restaurant that I opened just over two years ago was built completely from scratch and it took six months just to get connected to the electricity grid.
There are many people for whom I have tremendous respect within the industry - Alan Yau, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – to name a few. My inspiration came as a 15 year old when my father sent me to work in a local hotel in Turin, Italy, as punishment for being bad at school. I fell in love with the glitz, glamour and delicious food in the restaurant and I knew then that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
In the early nineties the industry became much more focused on chefs - that was when I started working with Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton. The digital age also means that now everyone is a critic so restaurants have to look after every customer equally, which is, of course, how it should be.
The restaurant business in London has become a lot like the Premier League. Over the last few years there have been a lot of rich, foreign businessmen buying restaurants because they have the money to spend but don’t necessarily care about the industry or making a profit. When you don’t have to worry about making a profit it makes it a lot easier but in my opinion you lose the focus.
You have to keep adapting to stay afloat. You have to decide whether to sink or swim. I am still heavily involved in the restaurant scene with Cuisine Collection and the destination restaurants at Vinopolis but having Vinum take over the event catering at the venue as well was a natural transition.
Event catering is a huge part of the industry and many well-known chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal are now realising the importance of it as well.
I am working on a few different projects at the moment. Obviously Vinum has just taken over the event catering at Vinopolis as well as running the destination restaurants but we are also working on a new Italian restaurant concept there which is due to open In February next year.
To succeed in the restaurant industry you need to have passion, work hard and have a great deal of luck. No secrets!
I don’t regret anything. There are some things that I may have done a bit differently but I think it’s very sad if you get to my age and have lots of regrets.